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Fun and fast weekend

We had another fun weekend, but it went really fast!!! On Friday night we had a few couples over to play games and have snacks, etc. We all sat around and snacked for a while and talked. Then we started to play catch phrase, which I’m not good at, but enjoyed watching and participating. We laughed a lot and it was fun. Then we got setup on the wii and I watched them all play boxing and we all got a kick out of watching Liz fight Mike and go nuts trying to knock him out. The night ended a little earlier than we could have handled, but the ladies had an event to go to early the next morning.

Saturday, it was just the kids and me for a while. Liz went to her event in New Tampa and I got the kids up and we started our day. We played the wii for a long time and Sarah was a natural with bowling, we scored me with 126 and her with 122 our first try. On her next try all alone, she got 148! She was also good at golf, baseball and tennis. Later around 1pm or so, Mike came back over with the kids and Sarah and Nathan played against each other for a while, and it was so much fun to watch. They played the practice rounds and tried all the different games, it was lots of fun!

Sunday Liz had Susan over to look at pictures and I worked on our storage situation a little for the computers. I ended up buying a 500GB external drive to keep our pictures and downloads on. This way it only runs when we need it, and we can take it with us. I plan to consolidate our storage onto this external drive, and delete old stuff we don’t need anymore, and maybe burn some stuff to DVD. Once done, I can sell about 3 hard drives that used to either be in a server, my PC or on a shelf. My PC has a 450W power supply which is having problems keeping up with the load. I may need a new power supply at some point as well.

I have Liz ready to buy a wii, we are going to use some money from the sale of computer parts I have and save up a little for it. In a few weeks we should have one.

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Ceiling Fan light malfunction – or so I thought

Ok, this is kind of embarrasing, but here we go. On Friday or so Liz and I noticed that the light on our ceiling fan in the living room was really dim. It was not normally this dim and nothing we tried seemed to help. I swapped light bulbs and took the cover off trying to find out why it was so dim. I finally resorted to the hunter website to try to track down the problem. I could not find my model on their site at first, so I submitted a support request via e-mail. Later I finally found our model on their website and was able to download the user guide. I read through it and found that the fan has a dimmer switch built into the remote. You have to press and hold the light power button and keep the buttom depressed, when you do this the light will cycle through its various brightness levels. What must have happened is the buttom got pressed long enough to dim the light while the remote was in a pocket or got sat on. So we thought something was wrong, but nothing was actually wrong, we were just ignorant of the features of the remote. Fortunately my support request to Hunter never went far enough for someone to actually tell me how stupid I was. I’m also glad I didn’t decice to take the fan apart or bring it down off the ceiling trying to do my own troubleshooting!

Server Closet picture

ServerCloset

Pardon the cable mess, but here is a picture of my server closet. I have two domain controlers (PCs on the left) and one Exchange server (HP desktop on the right laying flat). My FIOS router is on the top left on top of the black HP desktop/server. Right next to that is my Road Runner cable modem (Motorola SBG900). On the bottom shelf, I have a Dell Power Connect 16 port 10/100 switch. My vonage router is at the other end of the lower shelf and just above that is a phone (now the only phone connected to Vonage – until I cancel the service). I will be dropping road runner and Vonage this coming week, so the collection of devices will be reduced by 2 and a few cables will be removed.

Story of stupidity

This is hard to admit, and hopefully not many people I know will read this post. Its no secret that electricity and I don’t mix too well, just ask Liz. Well it all starts last night when I get home. It was a bit warm in the house when I got home, so I went to the thermostat and turned on the A/C. When I flipped the switch for the A/C I heard the thermostat make its little click like its trying to activate the air handler, but nothing happened. The air handler didn’t kick on and the pump outside wasn’t running either. I switched it to heat and the same thing happened, nothing! I checked the breaker outside by the pump and flipped it twice to see if that was it, but that didn’t help. Then I checked by the air handler and found a fuse box with cartridge fuses. I pulled out the box and found them badly corroded and falling apart. So I put in two spares that the previous owner left. That still didn’t help. I went to the garage and checked the breaker box and flipped the switches for the A/C and heat breakers. This still didn’t help. I propbably fiddled around for about an hour before giving up and sending an e-mail to my realtor to ask for a referral for an HVAC contractor to come and take a look. Liz got home and we talked about it for a bit, and ended up just going to bed. I opened the windows and it was a pleasant mild night, only thing that would have made it nicer is if I had a hammock tied between two palm trees!

So the story resumes this morning. Liz usually gets up earlier than me, and today, she woke me up about 10 minutes before she normally does. She indicated to me that the dryer wasn’t working either, and thought the two might somehow be related. I got up and started to take a look. The only place I figured the two could be related would be with the breaker box. Obvious they weren’t getting power so it must be a problem with the electricity. So I went back into the garage, opened up the breaker box and stared at all the switches. At the top there are the larger breakers to handle 220 outlets, and the rest are for the 110 outlets. All the 110 breakers were flipped inwards to the center of the box. The top breakers on the right column were pointing in the opposite direction. This did NOT catch my attention last night, so when looking at it today, I looked closer and noticed that the two 220 breakers were in fact switched OFF. I flipped them to the ON position and went back in the house, flipped on the A/C again at the thermostat and what do you know, it worked! Apparently last night I wasn’t paying enough attention and didn’t see that the two breakers were flipped off. When I flipped them, I had turned them on and then back off, and when the A/C still didn’t work, I assumed something else was wrong. I was extremely relieved to find that there was nothing major wrong, and the only problem existed between my ears. So the A/C system in my house is working again as it should, and I even got some maintenance done by replacing those bad fuses. 🙂

When NT4 servers can't find the PDC and all else fails

Recently I ran into a major problem with my Active Directory and NT4 setup. I maintain a network made up of 2 NT4 BDCs and about 10 Active Directory Domain Controllers. The domain is in 2003 interim mode and we also run Exchange 5.5 on 4 other NT4 member servers. Last week we renamed a few domain controllers and assigned new IP addresses (on the 2003 side). As a precaution I kept the old IP address on one of the major domain controllers until I could get time to manually modify all the legacy servers lmhosts files. We also shutdown the domain controller that was used to get us to Active Directory, basically I took a dell desktop that would run NT, and made it a BDC. Then I promoted it to a PDC and upgraded the OS to Server 2003 and installed Active Directory. Well its time to de-commission that box and we shut it down last week as well. On Monday, I created a new user account and immediately got reports of strange problems, the user was getting prompted for logon credentials in Outlook and could not stay online.

I looked around and couldn’t find anything wrong and wasn’t too concerned at this point. Later I realized that my NT4 BDCs were not able to find a PDC any longer. I assumed it was because we shutdown the upgraded domain controller and so we powered it back on hoping it would help. This did not fix the problem so I began working on the issue by online research and posting questions in newsgroups. Finally I found a guy on Experts-exchange that was very helpful and worked with me on EE for hours before we figured out the issue. By troubleshooting and much testing we found that NetBIOS lookups to the PDC emulator (running 2003) were failing. From 2003 we could map drives, browse to NT4 without a problem, only from NT4 to 2003 was there an issue. Lastly we found that its bad to have a multi-homed domain controller, especially the one we were using for the PDC Emulator. I removed the second (old) IP address from the server and everything started to work just fine. I could get into the user manager in NT4 and updates started to be processed without a problem.

So it turns out the main cause of the issue was not the renames, or IP change, or even shutting down an old DC. It was simply that we had more than 1 IP Address on our PDC Emulator server. Removing that fixed the issue. I think we can now power down the upgraded DC again and proceed further with the migration. Too bad it took so long to figure this out, but at least it is working normally now.

I miss my Miata

My sister-in-law was kind enough to loan me her vehicle while mine is being worked on. So today, I drove to work in a Ford Fusion. Its not a bad car all, it handled good, had a nice balance of power and comfort. The ride was very nice, but I felt like I was driving a boat compared to my Miata. I’m hoping I’ll get a call today saying its done before 5, so I can go get my car and see how it looks with a brand new top!

Computer problems

Sometimes even us computer professionals make really dumb mistakes on our computers. I was downloading some software last night and messing around a bit, when I opened something I knew I shouldn’t have. I had some zip files on my desktop that I had downloaded and when I tried to open them (without first scanning them for viruses) they just said the archive was damaged. But I could extract them with winrar. So I figured I just did something bad! I was adding and removing software from the PC, when I had to reboot. After the reboot, Windows would load to a blue screen waiting to open the logon box, but instead I just got STOP errors and Winlogon would crash and do a memory dump. So I stayed up till about 11:30 working on it, trying to get it working before Liz got home so she would have her PC today. I was never able to get it working and even tried some live linux CDs just to get her something to use. No luck! So I am going to try a different tool tonight to see if I can get to the system restore feature of Windows XP (since not even Safe Mode will work). If that works it makes it easier for me to backup and then re-load everything, but either way, it looks I’ll spend my weekend re-loading our PC again! I seem to be doing that more and more frequently lately. I wish I had a nice powerful server I could run Virtual server 2005 on, then I could just setup a virtual PC for all my downloading and testing, then it wouldn’t screw up my PC! I think I may also start making routine backups with ghost or something like that once I get it back up and running. I get the feeling that I need to do some hardware swapping too, since the machine seems so slow. Its got good stuff in it, but its just not as fast as it used to be. I could probably use a new hard drive, memory and motherboard. We use our computers a lot, and they run almost all the time, so things do tend to wear out!

Somewhat productive weekend

Over the weekend our plans didn’t quite turn out like we had hoped. We were going to try to clean out the garage and Liz’s sister was coming over, and then Sunday we were going to have some guests over to play some games. Well on Saturday Liz’s sister did make it over, so they planned some Pampered Chef party. Then we started to clean out the garage, which was a disaster, we tore everything out of its place, went through about 1 box of stuff then ran out of time and had to put everything back so we could fit my car back in the garage. That didn’t work out quite as I had hoped. Then my Sheet Fed scanner came in the mail that afternoon, so all I wanted to do was scan in documents and clean up my office area. I think Liz and I watched an episode of Deep Space Nine just before bed. Then on Sunday, our guests couldn’t make it over, so we changed our plans slightly, and I took Sarah (in the Miata), to a store to see if we could find a decent ceiling fan for their room. Their fan had worn out and was making bad sounds. So we picked out a fan and thought it was one price, but upon getting home I realize that it was actually $15 more than I wanted to spend. (OOPS). We also picked up a new doorknob for the girls bathroom which had also worn out. I got some light bulbs for their new ceiling fan and some more powerful bulbs for our light over our dining room table. So Sunday afternnon I ended up installing a new ceiling fan, changing a bunch of light bulbs and de-fuming the house (this is so dumb of me). On the way to the store, Sarah and I stopped off at a gas station to get some gas. I was looking at Sarah through the back window glass making faces at her, and wasn’t paying attention. I overfilled my tank and put about a full 1 or 2 cups of gas into the reservoir surrounding my gas tank fill pipe. There is normally a dran that allows any excess to leak out of the car. I didn’t realize it but it was clogged which is why it wasn’t draining. I got home to find once I got in the garage, it decides to trickle all over my garage floor causing my entire garage to stink of gasoline! I ran some water through the reservoir and flushed it out clearing the drain so it worked properly. I mopped up all the gas from the floor and wiped down my car. I sprayed some oust air freshener in there, but it didn’t help that much. The whole house started to have a hint of gas in the air, which was extremely unpleasant let me tell you! And when I got in my car to drive to work, it wreaked of gas, all the way to my office. Its going to take days to clear all that gas smell out of my house/garage and my car! What a dummy!

Paperless home office!

I got a sheetfed scanner in the mail today, and started doing some searches for free or open source software for use in making our home office a paperless home office. I am so tired of all the clutter in all the papers we get from creditors, and not to mention all the papers from Sarah’s schooling and Liz’s activities. I found this great software called DocsVault, which has a free home edition for download. I had searched for a few hours and really hadn’t found much of anything that cought my eye. Some expensive server based systems looked great, but were overkill for my home needs. So I came across this software and downloaded it to give it a try. I was impressed right from the start, it has everything we need for organizationl; cabinets, drawers and folders. It stores everything in an internal database and can use my sheet fed scanner. It has backup and restore capabilities built in, and can burn stright to CD/DVD or to a hard drive location. It integrate with MS Office and save documents directly to the cabinet/drawer of your choice. It has search capabilities and lots of powerful features above and beyond what I thought I could get for free. I started today scanning in papers, anything from bills, tax paperwork and all the way to the girls drawlings. Its perfect and exactly what I need to take care of my digital home needs. This should decrease the clutter and allow for better archiving and make things easier to find.

The Great Speaker Hunt

I recently decided that I’d like to replace the older surround sound speakers currently installed on my multimedia PC at home. Since I don’t have cable or DirecTV or any other paid TV Service, I use my multimedia PC to download/watch any shows or movies (not counting DVDs) that I want to see. This works out great for me, and the quality is amazing. My multimedia machine is a 1.8GHz AMD system, with 512MB of RAM, a 400GB hard drive, and Realtek HD Audio processor. I checked out my system specs and found that if I bought a really nice set of surround sound speakers, I’d probably need a new sound card. I like the Realtek HD audio, but the physical outputs on the motherboard are limited. I won’t have enough outputs to power a decent speaker set in 5.1 surround. So I went online and took over an hour to decide on a new sound card. I ended up getting the Creative Audigy EAX PCI. Its not an expensive card, but should deliver good quality 5.1 6 channel audio to my living room. Now the hunt is on for a good speaker set, I want to get something thats 5.1 surround, has 2 right channels, 2 front channels, a center channel/sub. I need something with a remote for volume control. I also want something if possible, on stands, so I won’t have to worry about finding temporary stands or mounting stuff on the wall.

I think I found a few sets on eBay that look pretty nice, and are fairly affordable. I don’t really need a receiver, because I won’t be using it for any radio or with any other inputs. All my multimedia comes from my multimedia PC, so as long as whatever I get connects to my multimedia PC, I’m set. I don’t want to go overboard either, since I won’t be using them to their full potential till we either move to a more secluded area, or the kids are older. We live in a close neighborhood, so I don’t want to make too much noise! I’ll try to put together some kind of diagram and spec listing for my multimedia PC and home theatre system once its complete.